“There’s a 60% divorce rate, and I think that should be at the forefront of people’s minds at this wedding.”
Portlandia’s passionate cyclist Spike returned from season one, and this year he’s engaged to his punk rock fiancee Iris. The two consult a wedding planner and give her an impossible set of visions and expectations: “If there’s anything you’ve done, we won’t do it,” Spike says, then Iris adds, “We don’t want anything that reads as ‘wedding.’” They request a flip book of factory photos, “people dying,” and a “preplanned but chaotic” element, and somehow the wedding planner whips up an abstract multimedia piece including a Hostess cake, screaming sounds, a wrench, and a tiny motorized windmill. “That’s everything we were talking about,” Iris says.
Of all the sketches that broke up the “cool wedding” plot, the best was the opening scene of Carrie dropping her iPhone. Between the dramatic slow-mo shot of the phone falling and its life flashing before her eyes – memories of using it to cheat at trivia night, plan e-parties, and triangulate direction followed by prophetic visions of Fred inevitably defriending her from his life since she doesn’t have his number written down – it’s both amusing and terrifying like the “mind-fi” technology loop sketch last season. The scene ends on a cartoonish note when the iPhone survives but Carrie falls and shatters into pieces, but it’s just another example of how Portlandia’s editing style has become as much a character as Fred and Carrie.
“Cool Wedding” has two cameos: Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Saddam) as an author who visits the bookstore Women & Women First for a signing, and Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) as a customer who forgets his bags when he goes to the supergreen bag-free grocery store Zupan’s Markets. Both of these sketches had some good moments, like how Fred’s cashier gives McBrayer the condescending guilt-trip staredown at the counter (“The cashiers have been just rude. No hello, or how is your day going, or anything. Just a cold stare.” - from a Yelp review of Zupan’s) or when Aghdashloo’s character gets sucked into helping Toni and Candace with their printer problems. But it was the “You Go” intersection sketch and the curse of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari that, like the iPhone opening, show Fred and Carrie at their best – taking a singular social phenomenon like intersection overpoliteness or movie buffs, then deconstructing it until its ridiculous end, like how watching Dr. Caligari turns viewers into postal workers until they talk someone else into viewing it, Ring-style.
The “bro talk” of last episode also returned when Spike speaks with his buddies at the wedding rehearsal set in a high school gym. I love the wannabe-cool nonchalance Fred gives Spike in passing comments like “If you give me the finger during this, I’m gonna laugh, and you’re gonna know I am,” then when trying to comfort the last friend he picks after he and Iris briefly call off their wedding and divy up their friends and family dodgeball-style. “Sorry I made you so last, I’m all in my head,” Spike tells his last pick as he gives him a slap-hug on the back. “I need you to be my dude. You’re a good guy, and I’m a good guy, and we have to know that, all right man?” The ceremony has a gross but sweetly appropriate ending when Spike pulls out one of his ear gauges and slips it onto his new wife’s finger after the two admit their love for each other, and even though I couldn’t stand the squish sound when the gauge comes off, Fred and Carrie’s love is real enough to keep me invested rather than scoffing at a couple of TV-less punk snobs.
For the first time this season, the celebrity cameo sketches took a backseat to the weirdly awesome and evolving chemistry between Fred and Carrie and made for another strong episode. My only complaint about Portlandia – and it was my same gripe in season one – is how unavailable it is online considering the e-literate humor it churns out week after week, following it up with the always-dismissive line “Oh, I don’t own a TV.” That said, a cool wedding is the perfect place to showcase all the rare gifts Fred and Carrie bring out in each other, and I hope their awesomely happy and platonic union continues to last. God forbid they hook up and ruin it.
Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.